CONTRIBUTORS

Fundamental fairness for Lewiston long overdue

Posted Nov. 03, 2011, at 2:39 p.m.

The BDN’s editorial position opposing the Lewiston casino (Question 3) is fundamentally unfair to the people of Lewiston-Auburn and poorly reasoned. Its analysis is a perfect example of the circular reasoning that has resulted in one state policy after another that has served to harm and obstruct economic development in Lewiston-Auburn.

This cannot be allowed to continue, and I am appealing to the people of the Bangor area to reject this reasoning and extend to Lewiston the same consideration we extended to Bangor in 2003, when Lewiston voted in favor of the Bangor casino.

If Lewiston is about anything, it’s about fairness. In 2007, Lewiston voted in favor of the Passamaquoddy effort to locate a casino in Washington County, and then, in 2008, voted in favor of the Oxford County proposal that would have been located in Rumford, a service center community.

But, in 2010, the people of Lewiston voted against that Oxford proposal because it is located right on our county line, where according to Oxford’s own study, it is calculated to siphon money out of the L-A downtown. If there is any casino project that is “marred by its location on the state map,” as the editorial stated, it’s that one in Oxford. Ours is right where it should be: in a large city that is a primary service center, where it can do the greatest good for the region. Sound familiar? It should, because that describes the one in Bangor.

Oxford never would have dared put its facility on the Cumberland or York county lines, because the anti-casino crowd would have gone berserk. Instead, they put it on the Androscoggin County line and got away with it, but it certainly isn’t fair to us in L-A.

The Lewiston proposal treats Hollywood Slots fairly with respect to both table games and the tax structure, whereas Oxford’s tax rules give them the ability to increase their payback and squeeze Bangor’s profits, which isn’t right. So, it comes as quite a disappointment to discover in the PAC reports that Penn National has chosen to help finance Oxford’s attempt to block us.

What I believe is that if we, the people of Maine, were able to decide for ourselves where to locate casinos in a thoughtful way, and without the influence of a rich few, the people of Bangor would agree that Lewiston really could make the best use of that opportunity, which is what the people of Lewiston said about Bangor eight years ago.

Instead, the BDN says that Lewiston should attempt to become a part of the greater Portland area. That’s backwards. How, exactly, do we do that? We can’t even get the state to build us another turnpike exit. L-A (roughly the same population as Portland) has two highway exits, while Portland has ten and Bangor has eight. The state’s passenger rail plans are in the process of bypassing us, along much the same route as I-295 did. Need I say more?

What we have to do in L-A is create a reason for people to come here, and then, and only then, are we going to get the connectivity we need to the rest of the state. Other communities get that connectivity without even asking for it, because they have the advantage of being on the coastal route to Bangor. That makes life harder here.

The BDN loses credibility when it suggests that Lewiston’s better course is to “develop its quality of life and its creative economy, help young entrepreneurs thrive, polish its downtown and highlight outdoor recreational opportunities.” It obviously has not been paying attention.

The Lewiston proposal designs a new and innovative concept for partnering a casino-entertainment complex in the downtown in a way that has never been done before.

It targets funds toward downtown revitalization, not just for Lewiston, but for downtowns throughout the state.

It helps young entrepreneurs by forgiving loans to college graduates who remain in Maine and by funding new-technology businesses through the Maine Technology Institute. As to “quality of life,” it revitalizes Lewiston, and it provides grants for converting homes (throughout Maine) to renewable clean energy, such as wood pellets (Maine loses over $1 billion annually to the producers of home heating oil).

Regarding outdoor recreation, it provides funds for a river trail to Brunswick, for cleaning Maine’s rivers and for promoting tourism. In short, we have the BDN’s suggestions well-covered. It looks as though the BDN never even bothered to read our proposal.

Please, let us help each other in the spirit of fundamental fairness. Vote yes on Question 3.

Laurent F. Gilbert Sr. is mayor of Lewiston.

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